Statement at Interfaith Clergy Press Conference
As people of faith, we believe that all people were created in the image of God and are beloved by God. Christian tradition, following Jewish tradition before it, tells us that God particularly cares for those who are oppressed. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ mother Mary sings about what God is doing in Jesus when she says, “God has brought down the powerful and has lifted up the lowly.” Many Christians call Mary the Blessed Mother. George Floyd was a man who died calling for his mother. For the love of God, if we are mothers, fathers, siblings, children who love our parents, if we are human beings who have ever loved another human being, if we are people of faith, we have to act to prevent such an atrocity from ever happening again. God’s business is to lift up those who suffer from injustice. That needs to be our business too, because God’s business is our business.
Faith calls us to action. God calls us to love our neighbor. Love is not a matter of having good, happy feelings. Love is a decision. It’s an action. Love calls us to put the well-being of our neighbor before our own. Love calls us to act for justice, to act for equality, to act for compassion. Love means caring for others even when it costs us to do it. Love means protecting those who risk their lives just walking down the street, or driving in a car, or sleeping in a bed. Love means preventing horrific deaths like those of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and so many people before them. Love means dismantling the systemic racism that has infected our country for over 400 years.
And white people, I want to say this to us particularly. The work of dismantling racism is not work for black people to do alone. This is white people’s work. WE have to do this work. We have power. We have influence. We white people have benefited from racist systems in ways most of us don’t even realize. It’s time for us to do the work of understanding the systems of racism that infect this country. And it’s time for us to take apart that system, and lift up other people than ourselves. It is time for us to lift up the lives of black people, because Black Lives Matter.
In the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, we have a major initiative going on to help us become what Dr. King called the Beloved Community. We are starting with the work of learning about systemic racism through a program called Sacred Ground. It’s hard and vulnerable work, and it’s inspiring work, because it calls us to act to bring justice to our black neighbors.
And we will act, because this is the work of justice. This is the work of faith. This is the work of love. This is the work that God calls us to do, because Black Lives Matter to God. They need to matter to us.
I’ve been asked to share with you the statement that a number of white clergy in our city have signed.
White Clergy Statement
“They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying ‘Peace, Peace’ when there is no peace” – Jeremiah 6:14, Hebrew Scriptures
As White faith leaders and clergy, we are called to take responsibility for our part in the struggle against anti-blackness and for racial justice. Many of us, and particularly our white Christian traditions, have been complicit with racism through colonization, slavery, segregation, lynching, and racialized mass incarceration.
At the dawn of the Summer of 2020, our nation is in a crucible wrought by racist systems and structures that permeate every facet of life in the United States, including health care, employment, education, wealth, the criminal justice system, and housing, and they infect far too many faith institutions and traditions.
Every time we forget that each person is made in the image of God, we move further away from our own humanity. Ideas and systems that support white supremacy are a cancer that eats away at our minds, hearts, and souls.
We are calling all White clergy and faith leaders to join us in uprooting theologies and practices that promote or accommodate interpersonal, structural, and systemic racism, and replace them with life-giving ways of making meaning, building relationships, and reconstructing just systems and structures.
On our journey we will REPENT, AFFIRM, and LEAD:
We REPENT for our silence and complicity in the face of systemic racism.
We AFFIRM the need to build redemptive power with our black colleagues, to bring systemic and structural change to our nation.
We will LEAD our congregations in learning about systemic anti-black racism and taking responsibility for our part in the struggle against anti-blackness.
[Signed by a number of white interfaith clergy]
Today, I commit to doing this work of repentance, affirmation, and leadership. I do this because it is the work of faith, and hope, and love. I do it because Black Lives Matter.